HC Deb 05 December 1991 vol 200 cc387-8
7. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now announce the results of his consideration of the case for the posthumous pardon of Derek Bentley.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

The representations made on behalf of Mr. Derek Bentley are still under consideration. I have asked the police to make inquiries and when I have the results of those inquiries I will be in a position to decide whether any action on my part is appropriate.

Mr. Hughes

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the case for pardoning Derek Bentley was supported by his trial jury, which recommended mercy in 1952; by the Lord Chief Justice of the day; by the trial judge, who said subsequently that he believed that Bentley would not hang; a subsequent Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham; by many members of another place; by many right hon. and hon. Members of this House—nearly one third of whom signed a recent early-day motion; and by millions of our fellow citizens. On the face of it, the case for a pardon is overwhelming. Will the Home Secretary expedite his consideration and either grant a posthumous pardon or at least instigate a public inquiry, so that what is regarded as the greatest injustice of our post-war criminal justice system left unremedied will be put right before the last member of the Bentley family dies without knowing the result?

Mr. Baker

I know of the hon. Gentleman's interest in and concern about this; they are shared by many others. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has been asked to look at the allegations and to arrange for certain persons who are said to be able to shed new light on the case to be interviewed. When I get his report, I shall, of course, examine it carefully and examine the full details of the case. Until I get that report, I will not get immersed in the details. I think it is right for me to receive the report and then to examine it.

Mr. Alexander

Will my right hon. Friend, on the other hand, bear in mind the fact that when Bentley was apprehended and before PC Miles was shot, Bentley said to the police: He's got a gun and it's loaded"? Will he bear in mind the fact that at no time did Bentley discourage Craig verbally from firing that gun, that he brought a 16-year-old accomplice, armed, to commit a robbery and that the Lord Chief Justice had every justification for what he did?

Mr. Baker

These are the sorts of considerations that I shall have to take into account. I am quite clear that I shall have to go into the evidence very carefully when the police report is available to me. I hear what my hon. Friend says, as I hear all representations on this matter.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Home Secretary acknowledge that fresh evidence was presented to him in the summer and that his review is long overdue? Will he acknowledge that this is an outrageous case of injustice? Derek Bentley could not have taken anybody anywhere; he could barely get himself around. He had a mental age of 11, although in body he was 19, and evidence of his mental incapacity was never produced during the trial. In view of that, will the Home Secretary make sure that he examines the evidence as rapidly as possible? Will he also acknowledge the sterling campaign carried out by the sister of Derek Bentley, Iris Bentley, in making sure that that grave injustice and wrong is righted as rapidly as possible?

Mr. Baker

No one could accuse me of delaying consideration of allegations of miscarriage of justice when they have been presented to me. I have dealt with them very promptly, as, indeed, a Home Secretary should. I am awaiting further analysis of the evidence and I assure the hon. Gentleman that, when I get it, I will examine the whole case again.

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